Likable, affordable – why is Carmenere off the radar?

by Dave

SF Chronicle

The grape Carmenere presents a bit of a conundrum. A relatively obscure variety, it is becoming better known – at least in Chile, where it has found a welcome home.

More Carmenere, one of Bordeaux’s six noble grape varieties, is being planted in Chile every year, with vineyards totaling 17,749 acres in 2006, according to Robert Bralow of Wines of Chile, an advocacy group for Chilean wines. This is surprising, given that almost 15 years ago, there was none – until it was discovered that much of what was assumed to be Chilean Merlot was actually Carmenere. (See “Tale of the grape,” Page F4.)

“It’s a great wine to pair with
food. It can go with spicier dishes,” Tavelli says, mentioning the
spicy character that many of the wines have.

And yet, despite the growth, this red grape is still flying under the radar for many wine drinkers. Restaurants and wine shops say they will carry more Carmenere if people request it. That won’t happen unless people first discover it. Thus far, not many have.

While it has much of Merlot’s easy-to-like appeal, Carmenere offers more structure and interest, and contains less tannin than Cabernet Sauvignon. Carmenere also tends more to red fruit aromas and flavors.

“It’s a great wine to pair with
food. It can go with spicier dishes
,” Tavelli says, mentioning the
spicy character that many of the wines have.

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